The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: Formation

Look to the Rock from which You were Hewn: There is no Artist like our God!

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“Rabbi Simlai expounded: What does an embryo resemble when it is in the belly of its mother? Folded writing tablets. Its hands rest on its two temples, its two elbows on its two legs and its two heels against its buttocks. Its head lies between its knees, its mouth is closed and its navel is open, and it eats what its mother eats and drinks what its mother drinks, but produces no excrement because otherwise it might kill its mother. However, as soon as it emerges into the atmosphere the closed organ opens and the open one closes [cf. Isaiah 22:22], for if that had not happened the embryo could not live even one single hour.

A lamp burns above its head and it looks and sees from one end of the world to the other, as is said, when He shined His lamp over my head, by its light I walked in darkness (Job 29:3). And do not be astonished at this, for a person sleeping here [in Babylon] might see a dream in Spain. And you have no days in which a human dwells in more happiness than in these days, for it is said, Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me (ibid. 29:2); now which are the days that have moons but do not have years? These are the moons of bearing [i.e., months of pregnancy].

It is also taught the entire Torah, for it is said, And he taught me and said to me: ‘Let your heart hold on to my words. Keep my commandments and live (Proverbs 4:4), and it is also said, [as I was in the days of my prime]—God an intimate of my tent (Job 29:4). Why the addition of ‘and it is also said?’—in case you might say that it was only the prophet who said that [so that it does not apply to other men], come and hear: God an intimate of my tent.

As soon as it emerges into the atmosphere an angel approaches, slaps it on its mouth and causes it to forget the entire Torah, as is said, at the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7) [cf. BT Sanhderin 91b; Zohar Ḥadash 46d–47b; Plato, Meno 80a–86c]. It does not emerge from there before it is made to take an oath, as is said, For to Me every knee shall bend, every tongue shall vow (Isaiah 45:23). That unto Me every knee shall bow—the day of dying of which it is said Before Him will kneel all who go down to the dust whose life is undone (Psalms 22:30); Every tongue shall swear—the day of birth of which it is said, the clean of hands and the pure of heart, who has given no oath in a lie and has sworn not in deceit (Psalms 24:4).

What is the nature of the oath that it is made to take? Be righteous, and never be wicked; and even if all the world tells you, ‘You are righteous,’ be in your eyes like a wicked person. Know that the blessed Holy One is pure, that His attendants are pure and that the נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul, He gave you is pure; if you preserve it in purity, well and good, but if not, I will take it away from you [cf. BT Berakhot 60b].

The academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: This may be compared to the case of a priest who handed over some תְּרוּמָה (terumah), donation, to an ignorant peasant and told him, ‘If you preserve it under conditions of cleanness, well and good, but if not, I will burn it in your presence.’

Rabbi El’azar observed: What is the Scriptural proof [that an oath is taken on the day of one’s birth]? From my mother’s womb גוֹזִי (gozi) (Psalms 71:6). What is the proof that gozi implies swearing?—because it is written, גָּזִּי נִזְרֵךְ (Gazi Nizrekh), swear your naziriteship, and cast it away [lit., cut off your hair and cast it away] (Jeremiah 7:29)” (BT Niddah 30b–31a).

“Rav Shimi son of ‘Uqva (others say, Mar ‘Uqva) was often in the company of Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi, who used to arrange the aggadahs [and recite them] before Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi. He said to him: What is, ‘בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי (Barekhi nafshi), bless, O my being, YHWH, and all that is within me bless His holy name? He replied: Come and see how human nature differs from divine nature: A human being draws a figure on the wall but cannot cast into it breath and soul, bowels and intestines. But the blessed Holy One is not so. צָר צוּרָה בְּתוֹך צוּרָה (Tsar tsurah be-tokh tsurah), He designs a form within a form [the fetus within the womb], casting into it breath and soul, bowels and intestines. This is what Hannah said: There is no one holy like YHWH, for there is no one beside You, and there is no rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:2). What does this mean: there is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God? There is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God!

What is For there is no one beside You? Rabbi Yehudah son of Menasya said: Read not, there is no one בִּלְתֶּךָ (biltekha), beside You, but, there is no one לְבַלּוֹתֶךָ (le-vallotekha), to outlive You. For the nature of flesh and blood is not like that of the blessed Holy One. It is human nature to be outlived by its works, but the blessed Holy One outlives His works. He said to him: What I meant to tell you is this: To whom did David refer in these five verses beginning with ‘בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי (Barekhi nafshi), bless, O my being, YHWH’? [see Psalms 103:1, 2, 22; 104:1, 35]. He was alluding only to the blessed Holy One and to the soul. Just as the blessed Holy One fills the whole world, so the soul fills the body. Just as the blessed Holy One, sees, but is not seen, so the soul sees but is not itself seen. Just as the blessed Holy One feeds the whole world, so the soul feeds the whole body. Just as the blessed Holy One is pure, so the soul is pure. Just as the blessed Holy One abides in the innermost chambers, so the soul abides in the innermost chambers. Let that which has these five things come and praise Him who has these five things [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 14:9]” (BT Berakhot 10a).

“The way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. A human being cannot fashion a creature from water. However, it is not so with He who spoke, and the world came into being. Rather, He fashioned a creature from water, as is written, Let the waters swarm with the swarm of living creatures (Genesis 1:20).

Worker of wonders (Exodus 15:11)—for the way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. A human being cannot fashion a creature in darkness. However, it is not so with the blessed Holy One. Rather, He fashioned a creature in darkness, as is written, When I was made in a secret place, knitted in the utmost depths (Psalms 139:15).

Another interpretation: Worker of wonders—for the way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. When a human being fashions a form, he begins from its head, or its feet, or from one of its limbs. However, it is not so with the blessed Holy One. Rather, when He fashions a form, He fashions it [all] at once, as is written, He is יוֹצֵר (yotser), Fashioner, of all things (Jeremiah 10:16). And it says, There is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God (1 Samuel 2:2)—there is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God!

Another interpretation: Worker of wonders—for the way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. A human being goes to a sculptor [and] says to him, ‘Make me a bust of [my] father!’ He says to him, ‘Bring me your father and stand him in front of me, or bring me his likeness, and I’ll make it for you according to its likeness!’ However, it is not so with He who spoke, and the world came into being. Rather, from [only one] drop, He gives someone a son who looks like the image of his father!” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Pisḥa, 8–11).

“Quarry of the Torah, treasury of Wisdom, quarry of רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים (ruaḥ Elohim), God’s breath, to teach that the blessed Holy One hewed out all the letters of Torah, engraving them with breath, and actualizing צוּרוֹתָיו (tsurotaiv), His forms, within, as is written: There is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God (1 Samuel 2:2)—‘there is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God!’ (BT Berakhot 10a)” (Bahir §143, cf. Zohar 3:135b [IR]).

When a woman yields seed (Leviticus 12:1).

Rabbi Yehudah opened, ‘There is no one holy like YHWHfor there is no one beside Youand there is no rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:2). This verse is difficult: There is no one holy like YHWH implies that there is someone else holy, since it is written like YHWHAnd there is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God implies that there is another rock.

Well, surely, There is no one holy like YHWH, for there are various holy ones. Holy ones above, as is written: [This verdictby order of the holy ones (Daniel 4:14). Israel is holy, as is written: You shall be holy (Leviticus 19:2). All of them are holy, yet not holy like YHWH. Why? Because it is written for there is no one בִּלְתֶּךָ (biltekha), beside You. What does this mean? That the holiness of the blessed Holy One exists בִּלְתִּי (bilti), without, their holiness, since He does not need theirs; but they are not holy biltekhawithout You. This is for there is no one biltekha—their holiness does not exist without You.

And there is no צוּר (tsur), rocklike our God—as has been established, that the blessed Holy One צָר צוּרָה גוֹ צוּרָה (tsar tsurah go tsurah), designs a form within a form, perfecting it, blowing into it the spirit of life, bringing it forth into the world. 

Alternatively, And there is no rock like our God—there is that which is called rockLook to the rock from which you were hewn (Isaiah 51:1); You shall strike the rockLookI am about to stand before you there on the rock (Exodus 17:6). All of them are called rock, yet there is no rock like our God, who possesses power and dominion over all’” (Zohar 3:44a).

ספר יצירה (Sefer Yetsirah), The Scroll of Formation, with Introduction

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These are the five scrolls and five chapters and five orders that Son of Sira revealed to Uziel his son and Yosef his grandson: Sefer Yetsirah, Sefer Tagi[n], Sefer Dikdukin, Sefer Pesiqta Batrei Apei Mishkan, Sefer Zerubbavel. Five chapters: Pereq Rabbi Shim’on bar Yoḥai, Pereq Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Pereq Otiyyot de-Rabbi Akiva, Pereq Ma’aseh Mishkan, Pereq Derekh Erets. Five orders: Seder Olam, Seder Tequfot, Seder Shaot, Seder Ibbur, Seder Halakhot [alt., Seder Heikhalot]. And when he had revealed all the mysteries the entire army on high shuddered. Now, the Holy Spirit issued, saying: Who revealed My secrets to the sons of man? Son of עצש״ט (‘ATsShT) stood up and said: I, Buzi son of Buzi [cf. Ezekiel 1:3]. The blessed Holy One said to him: [If you find honey, eat] just what you need, [lest you have your fill of it and throw it up] (Proverbs 25:16). Immediately Yosef sat down and wrote from ‘ATsShT those fifteen matters. He wrote five scrolls with a stylus—Sefer Yetsirah with which the blessed Holy One fashioned His world.

Who will utter YHWH’s mighty acts, will make heard all His praise? (Psalms 106:2)—none can utter His mighty acts or make heard all His praise. Even the ministering angels cannot recount מִקְצָת (miqtsat), some of [or: the best of those], mighty acts or expound on what צִפָּה (tsipah), He envisioned, created and actualized. For at the beginning when the blessed Holy One created the world, He was alone [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 1:4 on Isaiah 44:24]. It arose in His thought to create the world and He etched its foundations on the earth [cf. Isaiah 44:13; Proverbs 8:27], but they did not endure until He created with Torah Sefer Yetsirah—He gazed into it and understood in His wisdom. Thus He fashioned the world: His eyes gazing into Sefer Yetsirah, and His hands roaming and building the world [cf. 2 Chronicles 16:9].

To divide [between the holy and the profane]: Like a man who builds buildings and possesses a scroll and he looks at it, thus the blessed Holy One did. As soon as He fashioned His world and finished it, He placed it in Torah—treasured away at the start, preceding 974 generations before the creation of the world [cf. Proverbs 8:23; BT Ḥagigah 13b]. Now, when Abraham our father was born the ministering angels said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the World: There is one friend to You in this world yet from him something is concealed? Immediately the blessed Holy One said: Shall I conceal from Abraham [what I am about to do?] (Genesis 18:17). He sought the permission of Torah, saying: Come וּנַשִּׂיאךְ (u-nassik), and we shall marry you off, to Abraham My friend (Isaiah 41:8). She said before Him: Not until a humble man [Moses] will come and יִשָּׂא (yissa), lift up, [this] humble one. Immediately the blessed Holy One sought the permission of Sefer Yetsirah, and she said: Yes. He handed her on to Abraham.

Now, he sat alone and studied Sefer Yetsirah but he was unable to understand a thing until a heavenly echo issued saying to him: You seek to make yourself equal to Me? I am One and I created Sefer Yetsirah. I delved into it and I performed all that is written in it and you will not be able to understand a single [thing]. Draw a companion near to yourself and you will look into it and understand [cf. Ḥagigah 2:1]. Immediately Abraham went to Shem, his master, and sat with him three years and they looked into it and they knew how to fashion the world. And to this day, there is none who will understand it alone—only two sages [can], even they will not understand it in less than three years. Yet when they [do] understand it, they are able to perform anything their hearts desire. And when Abraham understood it, he added more wisdom to it and learned the entire Torah.

Rava, too, wanted to understand it alone. Rabbi Zera said: But it is written: A sword against הַבַּדִּים (ha-baddim), the soothsayers, exposed as fools (Jeremiah 50:36)—a sword against Israel’s enemies who sit בַּד בְּבַד (bad be-vad), apart, occupied with Torah [see BT Berakhot 63b ad loc.: ‘The Torah is only acquired in company’; cf. Ta’anit 7a; Makkot 10a]. If so, let us go and occupy ourselves with Sefer Yetsirah. And so they sat together and occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it. Once a calf was created for them and they slaughtered it and enjoyed it for the completion of the tractate [see BT Sanhedrin 65b]. But when they slaughtered it, they forgot it. They sat another three years and produced it again.

Son of Sira, too, wanted to understand it alone. A heavenly echo issued saying: Two are better than one, [for they get good reward for their toil] (Ecclesiastes 4:9). He went [and sat] next to Jeremiah and they occupied themselves with it for three years and understood it and an individual was created before them [בֶּן סִירַא (Ben Sira), Son of Sira, is numerically equivalent to יִרְמְיָהוּ (Yirmeyahu), Jeremiah, and אַבּוּ אַהֲרוֹן (Abu Aharon), i.e., Aharon ben Shemu’el ha-Nasi]. Written on his forehead was: וַיהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֱמֵת (va-Adonai Elohim Emet), but YHWH is the God of truth (Jeremiah 10:10). Now, in his hand was a knife and he was erasing א (alef) from אֱמֵת (emet), truth [leaving, מֵת (met), dead]. [Jeremiah rent his clothes (JTS MS 1887, fol. 129b)] he said: Why are you doing that? For it can’t possibly be true! He said to them: I will fashion a parable for you: What is this like? A man who is a builder and a sage. And when the sons of man saw him they made him king over them. Days later, others came and they learned the craft. They abandoned the first [king] and went after the others. Likewise, the blessed Holy One, exalted will be His name, gazes into Sefer Yetsirah and fashions the world, reigning over all His creations. And when you have come and done like Him, what will be the end of the matter? All will leave Him and go after you. What will become of He who fashioned you? They said to him: If so what will we do [now]? He said to them: Turn him back. And they made that man dust and ashes.

[§1] Yah YHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, El Shaddai. Lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15) engraved thirty-two wondrous paths with wisdom [cf. Targum Yerushalmi on Genesis 1:1; TanḥumaBereshit 1; Zohar 1:15a; 3:82b, 257a (last two RM). Alt., “In thirty-two paths, wonders of wisdom, He engraved Yah YHWH of Armies…,” see Rabbi Asher ben David, Sefer ha-Yiḥud]. He created His world with three סֶפָרִים (sefarim), ciphers: ספר ספר ספר.

[§2] Ten סְפִירוֹת בְּלִימָה (sefiroth belimah), ciphers of emptiness [cf. Job 26:7: He hangs earth over בְּלִי מָה (beli-mah), emptiness; Avot 5:1], and twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§3] Ten sefiroth belimah—like the number of the ten fingers, five opposite five and בְּרִית (berith), the covenant, of the singular One precisely in the middle in מִלַּת (millath), the word, of the tongue and millath, the circumcision, of the skin.

[§4] Ten sefiroth belimah—ten and not nine, ten and not eleven. Understand in wisdom, be wise in understanding. Probe them, from them explore. Establish a matter on its sound basis, and restore [יוֹצֵר [בְּרֵאשִׁית (yotser [bereshith]), the Fashioner [of the Beginning], to מְכוֹנוֹ (mekhon), His abode [cf. 1 Kings 8:43: You will hearken in the heavens, מְכוֹן שִׁבְתֶּךָ (mekhon shivtekha), the firm place of Your dwelling; Psalms 89:15: Justice and law are mekhon, the base, of Your throne].

[§5] Ten sefiroth בְּלִימָה (belimah)—בְּלֹם (belom), bridle, your mouth from speaking, bridle your heart from לְהַרְהֵר (le-harher), conceiving [cf. Psalms 32:9: Be not like a horse, like a mule, without sense, the bit and the reins his adornment—לִבְלוֹם (livlom), to keep, him from drawing near you; Daniel 4:2: I saw a dream and it frightened me, and הַרְהֹרִין (harhorin), thoughts, upon my couch and visions in my head panicked me]. And if your heart races return to the Place, as is written, Racing back and forth (Ezekiel 1:14)—concerning this a pact was sealed [cf. Rabbi Moshe de León, Sheqel ha-Qodesh 113].

[§6] Ten sefiroth belimah—their end is embedded in their beginning like a flame bound to a burning coal [cf. Isaiah 46:10; Ezekiel 1:13]. For the Lord is singular, He has none second to Him [cf. Ecclesiastes 4:8: There is one without a second, neither son nor brother he has]. Before one, what do you count?

[§7] Ten sefiroth belimah—their measure is ten yet they have no limit: depth of first and depth of last; depth of good and depth of evil; depth of over and depth of under; depth of east and depth of west; depth of north and depth of south. And a singular Lord—”אֵל מֶלֶךְ נֶאֱמָן (el melek ne’eman), God, steadfast King” (BT Shabbat 119b)—reigning over them all from His holy dwelling for ever and ever.

[§8] Ten sefiroth belimah—a vision of them is like the sight of lightening [or: sparks] (Ezekiel 1:14). וְתַכְלִיתָם אֵין לָהֶן קֵץ (We-thakhlitham ein la-hen qets), and their limit? They have no end [cf. Psalms 119:96: For each תִּכְלָה (tikhlah), finite thing, I saw קֵץ (qets), an end—but מִצְוָתְךָ (mitswathekha), Your command, is exceedingly broad]. And דְּבָרוֹ (devaro), His word, is in them racing back and forth (ibid.), and they pursue מַאֲמָרוֹ (ma’amaro), His command, like the storm [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b], and before His Throne they bow down [cf. BT Bava Batra 25a; Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 37].

[§9] Twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§10] Ten sefiroth, that is to say: One—רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (rhuaḥ Elohim ḥayyim), Breath of the Living God [cf. Genesis 1:2: … God’s breath hovering over the waters]. בָּרוּךְ וּמְבֹרָךְ (Barukh u-mevorakh), blessed and blessed, is the name of חֵי הַעוֹלָמִים (ḥei ha-olamim), the Vitality of Worlds. Voice, breath, word—רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ (rhuaḥ ha-qodesh), the Holy Breath [or: Spirit; cf. Zohar 1:246a].

[§12] Two—רוּחַ מֵרוּחַ (rhuaḥ me-rhuaḥ), wind from Breath: He engraved and hewed with it twenty-two elemental letters—three mothers, and seven doubles, and twelve simple ones, and breath is one of them [cf. Rabbi Shabbetai Donnolo, Sefer Hakhmoni].

[§13] Three—water from wind: He engraved and hewed with them תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (thohu wa-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:1), mud and clay (Isaiah 57:20). He engraved them like a sort of garden-bed. He stood them up like a sort of wall, and He thatched them like a sort of roof.

[§14] Four—fire from water: He engraved them and hewed with [fire] the Throne of Glory, וְאוֹפַנִּים וּשְׂרָפִים (ve-ofannim u-serafim), and whirlers and burners, holy living beings and ministering angels. And from the three of them He founded His dwelling, as is said: He makes His messengers the winds, His ministers, glowing fire (Psalms 104:4) [see Shemot Rabbah 15:22 ad loc.].

[§15] Five—He sealed above. He chose three simple [letters] and embedded them in His great Name. And He sealed with them six קְצָווֹת (qetsawoth), ends, and He turned upwards and sealed it [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 10:3 in the name of Rabbi Ḥama]. Six—He sealed below, and He turned downwards [in front] and sealed it. Seven—He sealed the east, and He turned downwards [in front] and sealed it. Eight—He sealed the west, and He turned behind and sealed it. Nine—He sealed the south, and He turned to His right and sealed it. Ten—He sealed the north, and He turned to His left and sealed it.

[§16] Ten sefiroth belimahרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים (rhuaḥ Elohim ḥayyim), Breath of the Living God; and rhuaḥwind, water, fire; up, down, east, west, north and south.

[§17a] Twenty-two letters—they are engraved by voice, hewn by breath, embedded in the mouth in five places: אח הע בו מף גי כק דט לנת זס שרץ (alef ḥeth he ‘ayin, beth waw mem peh, gimel yod khaf qof, daleth teth lamed nun taw, zayin samekh shin resh tsadhi) [קְדוּשָׁה (qedhushah), Holiness].

[§18] Twenty-two letters—their foundation is embedded <in the תְּלִי (Teli)> in the wheel with 231 gates [cf. Zohar 1:33b]. He rotates the wheel, turning it forward and backward [cf. BT Shabbat 151b; Zohar 1:110a on Job 37:12]. And this is the sign: if for good, upward—from עֹנֶג (‘oneg), pleasure; if for evil, downward—from נֶגַע (nega’), plague.

[§19a] Twenty-two letters—He engraved them, hewed them, weighed them, permuted them, and transposed them, fashioning with them the נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), life-breath, of all that is fashioned, and the nefesh of all that is destined to be fashioned [cf. M Sanhedrin 4:5; Tanḥuma–Yelammedenu].

[§19b] How did He weigh and permute them? א (Alef) with them all, and all of them with alef; ב (beth) with them all, and all of them with beth. And they rotate in turn. Found through 231 gates, from which all was created—all speech and everything fashioned is found emerging from one name.

[§20 (MS S)] Out of תֹהוּ (thohu), nothing, He fashioned מַמָּשׁ (mammash), something, making what is not [into] what is. He hewed great big pillars out of אֲוִיר (awir), air, that cannot be grasped [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b; Bereshit Rabbah 1:5]. And this is their mnemonic: קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ (qadosh, qadosh, qadosh), holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3) [—numerically equivalent to 1230 and in its reduced value to six, which in turn is the reduced numerical value of the 231 gates].

[§21 (according to Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim, 30:5)] 

אל בת גש דר הק וץ זף חע טס ין כם 

אב גת דש הר וק זץ חף חע יס כן לם 

אג דת הש ור זק חץ טף יע כס לן בם 

אד בג הת וש זר חק טץ יף כע לס מן 

אה בר ות זש חר טק ין כף לע מס גן 

או בה גד זת חש טג יק כץ לף מע נס 

אז בו גה חת טש יד כק לץ חף נע דס 

אח בז גו דה טת יש כר לק מץ נף סע 

אט בח גז דו ית כש לר מק נץ סף הע 

אי בט גח דז הו כת לש מר נק סץ עף 

אב בי גט דח הז לת מש נר סק עץ יף 

אל בך גי דט הח וז מת נש סר עק פץ 

אמ בל גס די הט זה צת סש ער פק זן 

אג בם גך דק הי וט זח סת עש פר צק 

אס בג גמ דל הס וי זט עת פש צר חק 

אע בס גנ דמ הל וכ זי חט פת צש קר 

אף בע גס דנ המ ול זכ חי צת קש טר 

אץ בף גע דס הג ומ זל חס טי קת רש 

אק בץ גף דע הס וג זם חל טב רת יש 

אר בק גץ דף הע וס זג חמ טל יב שת 

אש בר גק דן הף וע זס חג טמ יל כת 

את בש גר דק הץ וף זע חס טן ימ כל

[§22] He gazes and exchanges—making all that is fashioned and all speech one name. And a mnemonic for the matter: twenty-two חֲפָצִים (ḥafatsim), precious things, and one body [cf. Proverbs 8:11: For wisdom is better than rubies, all ḥafatsim, precious things, can’t match her worth].

[§23] Three mothers: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin)—their foundation is כַּף זְכוּת (kaf zekhuth), a scale [lit., palm] of merit, and כַּף חוֹבָה (kaf ḥovah), a scale of debt, and לְשׁוֹן חֹק (leshon ḥoq), a language [lit., tongue] of fixed law, holds the balance between them [cf. BT Qiddushin 40b; Midrash Tehillim 30:4].

[§24] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—a great mystery, hidden and wondrous, sealed with six signets. And from it issues fire, water, and wind, and they divide into male and female [cf. Shemot Rabbah 15:22].

[§25] Three [fathers]—fire, water, and wind; fire above, water below, and wind between them. And this is a sign for the matter: fire lifts water [causing it to evaporate, cf. Isaiah 64:1: as fire makes water seethe].

[§26] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—מֵם דּוֹמֶמֶת (mem domemeth), mem is mute; שִׁין שׁוֹרֶקֶת (shin shoreqeth), shin hisses [or: whistles; hushes, with שִׁנַּיִם (shinnaim), teeth]; and אָלֶף (alef), a fixed law, holds the balance between them.

[§27] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—from them were born three fathers. From them all was created [cf. Zohar 2:23b–24a].

[§28] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in the world; [three fathers]—wind, water, fire. Heavens were created first from fire, and earth was created from water [cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Bereshit 19], and אֲוִיר (awir), air [alt.,אוֹר (or), light,] was created from wind, holding the balance between them.

[§29] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in the year: fire, water, wind. Heat was created from fire, and cold was created from water, and humidity from wind holding the balance between them.

[§30] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—in a nefesh, person. The head was created from fire, the belly from water, and the chest from rhuaḥ, breath [or: wind], holding the balance between them.

[§31] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin—He engraved them, hewed them, transposed them, fashioning with them the three mothers in the world, and the three mothers in the year, and the three mothers in a person—male and female.

[§32] He made alef king over wind, and bound to it a crown [cf. BT Menaḥot 29b], and transposed them, this with that, sealing with them אֲוִיר (awir), atmosphere, in the world, humidity in the year, and the chest in a person—male with alef, mem, shin, and female with shin, memalef.

[§33] He made מ (mem) king over מַיִם (mayim), water, and bound to it a crown, and sealed with it earth in the world, cold in the year, and the fruit of the belly in a person; male with mem, shinalef, and female with memalef, shin.

[§34] He made ש (shin) king over אֵשׁ (esh), fire, and bound to it a crown, and transposed them, this with that, sealing with it heavens in the world, heat in the year, and the head in a person, male with shin, memalef, and female with shinalef, mem.

[§35 (MS A)] How did He transpose them? אמש אשם מאש משא שמא שאם (Alef mem shin, alef shin mem, mem alef shin, mem shin alef, shin mem alef, shin alef mem)—heavens, fire; air, breath [or: wind]; earth, water. Man’s head: fire; his belly: water; his heart: breath.

[§36 (MS A)] Three mothers: alef, mem, shin. There was fashioned with alef: breath, air, humidity, chest, a fixed law, and a tongue. There was fashioned with mem: earth, cold, belly, and the scale of merit. There was fashioned with shin: heavens, heat, head, and the scale of debt. This is alef, mem, shin. The end.

[§37] Seven doubles: בגד כפרת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw)—they are pronounced with the tongue in two places. Their foundation is life and peace, wisdom and wealth, seed, favor, and mastery. They are pronounced with the tongue in two places: ב (beth, veth), ג (gimel, ghimel), ד (daleth, dhaleth), כ (kaf, khaf), פ (peh, feh), ר (resh, rhesh), ת (taw, thaw)—דָּגֵּשׁ (dagesh) and רְפֵי (rhefei), soft and hard, a paradigm of strong and weak. They are doubles because they are opposites. The opposite of life is death; the opposite of peace is war [lit., evil]; the opposite of wisdom is folly; the opposite of wealth is poverty; the opposite of seed is ruin; the opposite of favor is spurn; and the opposite of mastery is slavery.

[§38] Seven doubles: beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw—corresponding to seven קְצָווֹת (qetsawoth), ends [or: reaches, extremities, see Bahir §82]: a place of ends and a holy place; one—a place set within a place; two—the upper reaches; three—the lower reaches; four—the eastern reaches; five—the western reaches; six—the northern reaches; seven—the everlasting reaches, and the holy הֵיכָל (heikhal), Palace [or: Chamber, Hall, Temple], stands firm in the middle and it bears them all [cf. Bahir §154].

[§39] Seven doubles: beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw—He engraved and hewed them. He transposed them, fashioning with them the planets in the world, the days in the year, and the gates in a person by sevens.

[§40] How did He transpose them? Two stones build two houses; three build six houses; four build twenty-four houses; five build one hundred and twenty houses; six build seven hundred and twenty houses; seven build five thousand and forty [i.e., factorials]. From here on go out and tally what the mouth is unable to speak, and what the ear is unable to hear [cf. Isaiah 64:3: They never had seen, they never gave ear, no eye has seen God besides You; Sa’adia Gaon, Perush Sefer Yetsirah].

[§42] And with them were engraved seven firmaments, seven earths, seven hours and seven times. Therefore He loved the seventh under the heavens [cf. Ecclesiastes 3:1–8; Vayiqra Rabbah 29:11].

[§43a] These are the seven planets in the world: חַמָה (ḥamah), Sun, נוֹגַה (noghah), Venus, כּוֹכָב (kokhav), Mercury, לְבָנָה (levanah), Moon, שַׁבְּתַי (shabbethai), Saturn, צֶדֶק (tsedheq), Jupiter, מַאְדִים (ma’adhim), Mars. And days in the year: the seven days of Creation. And seven gates in a person: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and the mouth.

[§45] Twelve simple ones: הו זח טי לנ סע צק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof)—their foundation is seeing, hearing, smelling, conversing, tasting, mating, doing, walking, impatience, laughing, fantasizing [lit., conceiving], sleeping.

[§47] Their measure is twelve גְבוּלֵי אֲלַכְסוֹן (gevulei alakhson), diagonal borders: a north-eastern border, a south-eastern border—an upper eastern border, a lower eastern border; a north-western border, a south-western border—an upper western border, a lower western border; an upper northern border, a lower northern border; an upper southern border, a lower southern border; deepening and expanding until evermore, זְרֹעֹת עוֹלָם (zero’oth olam), arms of the world (Deuteronomy 33:27) [cf. BT Ḥagigah 12b ad loc.; Bahir §95. On the various compound directions, see M Yoma 5:5; Zevaḥim 5:3; Zohar 1:120b; 3:118b, 120a].

[§48a] He made them a sort of מְרִיבָה (merivah), rivalry, arranging them in battle [array], One opposite the other God made them (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

[§48b] Three—each one stands alone; seven are at loggerheads—three against three, and one which holds the balance between them. Twelve stand in battle [array]: three love but three hate; three give life but three kill. God, a steadfast King, reigning over them all—one atop three, and three atop seven, and seven atop twelve. And they all hold fast to each other [cf. Bahir §118].

[§49a] Twelve simple letters: הו זח טי לנ סע צק (he waw zayin ḥeth teth yod, lamed nun samekh ’ayin tsadhi qof)—He engraved them and hewed them, He weighed them and permuted them, fashioning with them the twelve constellations in the world, twelve months in the year, and the twelve מַנְהִיגִים (manhigim), conductors, in a person [see Bahir §94].

These [§49b] are the twelve constellations in the world: טָלֶה (taleh), Aries, שׁוֹר (shor), Taurus, תְּאוֹמִים (te’omim), Gemini, סַרְטָן (sartan), Cancer, אַרְיֵה (arhyeh), Leo, בְּתוּלָה (bethulah), Virgo, מֹאזְנַיִם (moznayim), Libra, עַקְרָב (‘aqrhav), Scorpio, קַשָּׁת (qashath), Sagittarius, גְּדִי (gedhi), Capricorn, דְּלִי (deli), Aquarius, דָּגִים (daghim), Pisces. And these are the twelve months: נִיסָן (Nisan), אִייָר (Iyyar), סִיוָן (Siwan), תַמוּז (Thammuz), אָב (Av), אֱלוּל (Elul), תִּשְׁרֵי (Tishrhei), מַרְחֶשְׁוָן (Marḥeshwan), כִּסְלֵיו (Kislew), טֵבֵת (Teveth), שְׁבָט (Shevat), אֲדָר (Adhar). And these are the twelve manhigim, conductors, in a person: the right hand, the left hand, the right foot, the left foot, two kidneys, the liver, the gallbladder, the spleen, the gullet, the stomach, and the intestines. 

[§50] Three mothers, and seven doubles, and twelve simple ones.

[§56] These are twenty-two letters [engraved and hewed by] YahYHWH of Armies, God of Israel, Living God, lofty and high One, who dwells forever and holy His Name (Isaiah 57:15).

[§58] Three fathers and their generations, and seven כּוֹבְשִׁים (kovshim), conquerers, and their armies [cf. Numbers 32:22: The land נִכְבְּשָׁה (nikhbeshah), is conquered, before YHWH], and the twelve diagonal borders. And a proof for the matter, trusty witnesses (Isaiah 8:2): the world, the year, and a person.

[§59a] There is a fixed law of ten, three, seven, and twelve. They are overseers in Teli, Wheel, and Heart [cf. Bahir §95].

[§59b] The Teli in the world is like a king on his throne; the Wheel in the year is like a king in a province; the Heart in a person is like a king at war.

[§60b] One opposite the other God made them (Ecclesiastes 7:14)—good opposite evil; good from good and evil from evil. Good discerning evil and evil discerning good. Good is treasured away for the good and evil is kept for the evil.

[§61] When Abraham our father gazed—looking, seeing, probing, understanding, engraving, hewing, transposing, and fashioning—he succeeded. Immediately the Lord of All was revealed to him, making him sit in His lap, kissing him upon the head, and calling him His friend [see Isaiah 41:8], naming him His son, and sealing a pact with him and his seed forever. And he trusted in YHWH, and He reckoned it to his merit (Genesis 15:6). [And He invoked upon him the glory of YHWH, as is written, Before I fashioned you in the belly I knew you (Jeremiah 1:5) (MS A)]. Sealing a pact with him: between the ten toes of his feet—circumcision of the skin. Sealing a pact with him: between the ten fingers of his hands—covenant of the tongue. Binding twenty [-two] letters with his tongue [or: in his tongue], the Omnipresent revealing to him His secret. He drew them out with fire like water—burning them with fire, rattling them with wind [or: shaking them into wind]. He branded them in seven, leading them with twelve constellations.

[§62] (1) אֲוִיר וּרְוָיָה וּגְוִיָּה (Awir, u-rewayah u-gewiyyah), air, satiety, and chest [cf. Psalms 66:12: We came into fire and water—and You brought us out לָרְוָיָה (le-rewayah), to satiety; Ezekiel 1:11: two covered גְּוִיֹּתֵיהֶנָה (gewiyyotheihenah), their chests]; earth, cold and belly; heavens and heat and the head. This is א מ ש (alef, mem, shin).

(2) Saturn, Sabbath and the mouth; Jupiter, the first day of the week and the right eye; Mars, the second day of the week and the left eye; the Sun, the third day of the week and the right nostril; Venus, the fourth day of the week and the left nostril; Mercury, the fifth day of the week and the right ear; the Moon, the sixth day of the week and the left ear. This is בגד כפרת (beth, gimel, daleth, kaf, peh, resh, taw).

(3) Aries, Nisan, the liver; Taurus, Iyyar, the gallbladder; Gemini, Siwan, the spleen; Cancer, Thammuz, the gullet; Leo, Av, the right kidney; Virgo, Elul, the left kidney; Libra, Tishrhei, the intestines; Scorpio, Marḥeshwan, the stomach; Sagittarius, Kislew, the right hand; Capricorn, Teveth, the left hand; Aquarius, Shevat, the right foot; Pisces, Adhar, the left foot. This is הו זח טי לנ סע צק (hewawzayinḥeth, teth, yod, lamed, nun, samekh, ‘ayin, tsadhi, qof).

[§63] 1 Three hate and these are they: the tongue, the liver, and the gallbladder.

2 Three love: the heart, the ears, and the eyes.

3 Three give life: the two nostrils and the liver of the left side.

4 Three kill: the two lower orifices and the mouth.

5 Three are in man’s control: the feet, the hands, and the mouth.

6 Three are not in man’s control: his two eyes, his ears, and his nostrils [on the voluntary and involuntary organs, see Bereshit Rabbah 67:3].

7 Three are bad tidings for the ear: cursing, blasphemy, and an evil rumor [or: bad news, see Jeremiah 49:23; Psalms 112:7].

8 Three are good tidings for the ear: blessing, a good report [or: good news, see Proverbs 25:25], and praise.

9 Three sights are bad for the eye: adultery, an evil eye, and a deceptive look.

10 Three sights are good for the eye: modesty, a good eye, and a trustworthy look.

11 Three are bad for the tongue: He who speaks in the presence of the slanderer, he who speaks one thing with the mouth but another with the heart, and he who speaks more than enough.

12 Three are good for the tongue: silence, holding the tongue, and speaking truth [cf. Sefer Yetsirah §5; M Avot 1:17].

[§64] Whoever understands this scroll and keeps it has the assurance that he is a son of the world to come. This is the scroll of Abraham our father, peace be upon him, which is called The Scroll of Formation [or: The Scroll of Fashioning; Hilkhot Yetsirah (The Laws of Formation), see BT Sanhedrin 65b].

There is no measure to the wisdom of anyone who looks into it. And the mysteries of the upper and lower world will be revealed to anyone who occupies himself with it and studies it and knows its mysteries—he has the assurance that he is a son of the world to come. This scroll, which is called סוֹד הָעִבּוּר (sod ha-ibbur), The Secret of Intercalation [lit., ‘The Secret of Impregnation,’ a system of insertion of leap days, weeks, or years to keep the Jewish calendar synchronized with the moon’s phases, cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 20b. On the laws of intercalation, see for example M Sanhedrin 1:2; Arakhin 2:2. Cf. Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer, 8], on which the whole world depends, should not be handed on to anyone except he who turns away from evil and is in awe of אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God, and waits and hopes for his Maker, as is said, Steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in YHWH (Psalms 32:10), and it says, Israel is victorious through YHWH, an everlasting victory. You shall not be shamed and shall not be disgraced forever more (Isaiah 45:17).

The Blessed Holy One Hewed out all the Letters of Torah, Engraving them with Breath

Alex-bet jumble

“The blessed Holy One said, ‘I need laborers.’ The Torah said to Him, ‘I am providing you twenty-two laborers’—the twenty-two letters which are in the Torah” (Tanḥuma–Yelammedenu Fragments, 20–21 [Urbach]).

“Twenty-two letters—they are engraved by voice, hewn by breath, embedded in the mouth in five places: אח הע בו מף גי כק דט לנת זס שרץ (alef ḥet he ‘ayin, bet vav mem pehgimel yod kaf qofdalet tet lamed nun tavzayin samekh shin resh tsadi)” (Sefer Yetsirah §17a).

“Quarry of the Torah, Treasury of Wisdom, Quarry of God’s breath, to teach that the blessed Holy One hewed out all the letters of Torah, engraving them with breath, and actualizing צוּרוֹתָיו (tsurotaiv), His forms, within, as is written: There is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God (1 Samuel 2:2)—‘there is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God’ (BT Berakhot 10a)” (Bahir §143).

“A certain philosopher asked Rabban Gamaliel, saying: Your God was indeed a great צַיָּר (tsayyar), artist, but surely He found good materials which assisted Him? He said: What are they? תֹּהוּ וָבֹהוּ (Tohu va-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:2), darkness, water, wind, and the deep; woe to that man. Of all of them it is said בְּרִיאָה (beriyah), Creation: Tohu and bohu: יוֹצֵר (Yotser), He fashions, light and בוֹרֵא (vo’re), creates, darkness (Isaiah 45:7); water: Praise Him, utmost heavens, and the waters above the heavens (Psalms 148:4)—why? For He commanded, and they were created (ibid., 5); wind: Yotser, He fashions, the mountains and vo’re, creates, the wind (Amos 4:13); the depths: When there were no deeps I was spawned, when there were no wellsprings, heavy with water (Proverbs 8:24)” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:9).

A David song of praise. אֲרוֹמִמְךָ (Aromimekha), let me exalt You, my God the king, and let me bless Your name forevermore. בְּכָל (Be-kal), every, day let me bless You, and let me praise Your name forevermore. גָּדוֹל (Gadol), great, is YHWH and highly praised, and His greatness cannot be fathomed. דּוֹר לְדוֹר (Dor le-dor), let one generation to the next, extol Your deeds and tell of Your mighty acts. הֲדַר (Hadar), of the grandeur, of Your glorious majesty and Your wondrous acts let me treat. וֶעֱזוּז (Ve-ezuz), and the power, of Your fearsome deeds let them say, and Your greatness let me recount. זֵכֶר (Zekher), the fame, of Your great goodness they utter, and of Your bounty they joyously sing. חַנּוּן (Ḥannun), gracious, and merciful is YHWH, slow to anger, great in kindness. טוֹב (Tov), good, is YHWH to all, and His mercy is over all His creatures. All Your creatures, YHWH, יוֹדוּךָ (yodukha), acclaim You, and Your faithful ones bless You. כְּבוֹד (Kevod), the glory, of Your kingship they say, and of Your might they speak, לְהוֹדִיעַ (le-hodi’a), to make known, to humankind His mighty acts and the grandeur of His kingship’s glory. מַלְכוּתְךָ (Malkhutkha), Your kingship, is a kingship for all time, and Your dominion for all generations. YHWH סוֹמֵךְ (somekh), props up, all who fall and makes all who are bent stand erect. עֵינֵי (Einei), the eyes, of all look in hope to You and You give them their food in its season, פּוֹתֵחַ (Poteaḥ), opening, Your hand and sating to their pleasure all living things. צַדִּיק (Tsaddiq), just, is YHWH in all His ways, and faithful in all His deeds. קָרוֹב (Qarov), close, is YHWH to all who call Him, to all who call to Him in truth. רְצוֹן (Ratson), the pleasure, of those who fear Him He performs, and their outcry He hears and rescues them. YHWH שׁוֹמֵר (shomer), guards, all who love Him, and all the wicked He destroys. YHWH’s תְּהִלַּת (Tehillat), praise, let my mouth speak, and let all flesh bless ת His holy name forevermore (Psalms 145:1–21, acrostics occur in Psalms 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, and 145; Proverbs 31:10–31; Lamentations 1–4).

“Rav Hamnuna Sava said: ‘We find the letters backward [in the first verse of the Torah]: ב (bet) first, followed by bet: בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), in the beginning, followed by בָּרָא (bara), created. Then א (alef) first, followed by alef: אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), followed by אֵת (et).

‘The reason is: When the blessed Holy One wished to fashion the world, all the letters were hidden away. For two thousand years before creating the world, the blessed Holy One contemplated them and played with them [see Bahir §5]. As He verged on creating the world, all the letters presented themselves before Him, from last to first.

The letter ת (tav) entered first of all. She said, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for I complete Your seal: אֶמֶת (emet), truth—and You are called Truth. It is fitting for the King of Truth to begin with a letter of truth and to create the world by me.’ The blessed Holy One replied: ‘You are seemly and worthy, but not deserving to initiate Creation, since you are destined to be marked upon the foreheads of the faithful who fulfilled the Torah from alef to tav and by your mark they will die. Furthermore, you are the seal of מָוֶת (mavet), death. So, you do not deserve to serve as an instrument of Creation.’ She departed immediately.

The letter ש (shin) came before Him. She said, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for by me You are named שַׁדָּי (Shaddai), and it is fitting for the world to be created by a holy name. He replied: You are seemly, you are good and you are true, but since the letters of deceit come and take you for their partner, I do not want to create the world by you. For a lie cannot exist unless ק״ר (qof, resh) take you. So whoever wants to tell a lie will first lay their foundation of truth and then construct the lie [cf. Proverbs 12:19; BT Shabbat 104a; Sotah 35a]. For shin is a letter of truth, a true letter of the patriarchs, who were united in it; qof, resh are the letters that appear on the evil side. In order to survive, they entangle the letter shin, forming קֶשֶׁר (qesher), conspiracy. Seeing this, she left His presence.

The letter צ (tsadi) entered. She said to Him, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for צַדִּיקִים (tsaddiqim), the righteous, are sealed by me, and You, who are called צַדִּיק (tsaddiq), Righteous, are signified by me, as is written, For YHWH is tsaddiq, righteous—loving righteousness (Psalms 11:7). It is fitting to create the world by me!’ He replied, ‘Tsadi, you are tsaddiq, righteous, but you should remain hidden—not so revealed—so as not to provide the world a pretext.’ How so? She is נ (nun). י (Yod) from the name of the holy covenant comes and rides on her, is united with her. This is the mystery: When the blessed Holy One created Adam, He created him with two faces…. So the yod faces backward…. They were not turned face-to-face… it [yod] looked upwards…. it looked downwards…. The blessed Holy One said to her ‘Turn back, for I intend to split you and transfigure you face-to-face, but you will arise elsewhere.’ She left His presence and departed.

The letter פ (peh) entered. She said to Him, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for I signify פּוּרְקֶנָא (purqena), the redemption, that You will someday bring upon the world and also פְּדוּת (pedut), deliverance. It is fitting to create the world by me!’ He replied, ‘You are seemly, but you signify hidden transgression, like a serpent striking, then tucking its head into its body: so one who sins bows his head, stretching out his hands.’

Similarly, ע (ayin) stands for עֲו‍ֹן (avon), iniquity. Although she said, ‘I imply עֲנָוָה (anavah), humility,’ the blessed Holy One replied, ‘I will not create the world by you.’ She left His presence.

The letter ס (samekh) entered. She said to Him, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for by me סְמִיכָא (semikha), support, exists for those who fall, as is written, סוֹמֵךְ יְהוָה (somekh Adonai), YHWH supports all who fall (Psalms 145:14). He replied, ‘So you are needed where you are! Don’t move from there! If you leave, what would happen to the fallen, who depend on you?’ She immediately left His presence.

The letter נ (nun) entered. She said to Him, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for by me You are called נוֹרָא (nora), Awesome, in praises (Exodus 15:11). By me, the praise of the righteous is called נָאוָה (navah), comely (Psalms 33:1).’ He replied, ‘Nun, return to your place, for because of you samekh has returned to her place. Depend on her.’ She returned immediately, leaving His presence [nun alludes to נוֹפְלִים (nofelim), the fallen, supported by samekh, see BT Berakhot 4b].

The letter מ (mem) entered. She said to Him, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for by me You are called מֶלֶךְ (melekh), King.’ He replied, ‘Certainly so, but I will not create the world by you, since the world needs a king. Return to your place, you along with ל (lamed) and ך (kaf), for the world should not be without a king.’

At that moment כ (kaf) descended from His throne of glory. Trembling, she said to Him, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for I am your כָּבוֹד (Kavod), ‘Glory.’’

When kaf descended from the throne of glory, 200,000 worlds trembled, the throne trembled, and all the worlds verged on collapse. The blessed Holy One said to her, ‘Kafkaf what are you doing here? I will not create the world by you. Return to your place, for you imply כְּלָיָה (kelayah), destruction—a decree of destruction (Isaiah 10:23). Return to your throne and stay there.’ She thereupon left His presence and returned to her place.

The letter י (yod) entered. She said to Him, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for I am the beginning of the holy Name. It is fitting for You to create the world by me!’ He replied, ‘It is enough for you to be engraved in Me, to be inscribed in Me. My desire culminates in you. You should not be uprooted from My name.’

The letter ט (tet) entered. She said to Him, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for by me You are called טוֹב וְיָשָׁר (tov ve-yashar), Good and upright (Psalms 25:8).’ He replied, ‘I will not create the world by you, for your goodness is concealed and hidden within you, as is written, How abundant is Your goodness that You have hidden away for those in awe of You (Psalms 31:20). Since it is hidden within you, it plays no part in this world that I am about to create, but rather in the world to come. Furthermore, because your goodness is hidden within you, the gates of My Temple will sink, as is written: Her gates טָבְעוּ (tave’u), have sunk, into the earth (Lamentations 2:9). Further, facing you is ח (ḥet), and when you join together with her, you spell חֵטְא (ḥet), sin. So these two letters are not inscribed in the holy tribes. She immediately left His presence.

The letter ז (zayin) entered. She said to Him, ‘Master of the worlds, may it please You to create the world by me, for by me Your children observe the Sabbath, as is written: זָכוֹר (zakhor), Remember, the Sabbath day, to hallow it (Exodus 20:8).’ He replied, ‘I will not create the world by you, for you imply war—a sharp sword and a spear for battle, like a ן (nun). She immediately left His presence.

The letter ו (vav) entered. She said to Him, ‘Master of the world, may it please You to create the world by me, for I am a letter in Your Name.’ He replied, ‘Vav, it is enough for you and ה (he) to be letters of My name, included in the mystery of My name, engraved and carved in My name. I will not create the world by either of you.’

The letters ד (dalet) and ג (gimel) entered and made the same request. He replied to them as well, ‘It is enough for you to be with each other, since the poor will never cease and need to be treated kindly. Dalet is poor; gimel, גְמוֹל (gomel), renders, goodness to her. Do not separate from one another! It is enough for one of you to sustain the other.’

The letter ב (bet) entered, she said to Him, ‘Master of the world, may it please You to create the world by me, for by me you are בָּרוּךְ, (barukh), blessed, above and below.’ The blessed Holy One replied, ‘Indeed, by you I will create the world. You will be the beginning of Creation.’

The letter א (alef) stood but did not enter. The blessed Holy One said to her, ‘Alefalef, why do you not enter My presence like all of the other letters?’ She replied, ‘Master of the world! Because I saw all the letters leaving Your presence fruitlessly. What could I do there? Further more, look, You have given this great gift to the letter bet, and it is not fitting for the exalted King to take back a gift He has given to His servant and give it to another!’ The blessed Holy One said, ‘Alefalef! Although I will create the world with the letter bet, you will be the first of all the letters. Only through you do I become יִחוּדָא (yiḥuda), one. With you, all counting begins and every deed in the world. No יִחוּדָא (yiḥuda), union, is actualized except by alef’” (Zohar 1:2b–3b).

Of the letters of Torah it says: ‘There is no early or late in Torah’ (BT Pesaḥim 6b). However, in the Throne [Shekhinah] all is arrayed fittingly. And this secret has been set aside for those wise of heart. 

And the enlightened will shine (Daniel 12:3)—these are the letters which have a mind to enter before the King, each one according to its תִּקּוּנא (tiqquna), order. From the side of Judgement each one entered from last to first, because the left arm is [the month of] Tishrei [see BT Rosh ha-Shanah 18a]. This is בְּרֵאשִׁית (Bereshit), in the beginning, and it is בְּ״א תִּשְׁרֵי (be-alef tishrei), in the first of Tishrei, because the world was created with Judgment [cf. Rabbenu Tam on BT Rosh ha-Shanah 27a]. Therefore they entered from last to first. But we have said that the world was created from the right side, and the letters entered from first to last? The mystery of the matter: I have said, the world is built by kindness (Psalms 89:3). Therefore when the letters entered from last to first, and then from first to last, the blessed Holy One did not want to create the world by them until He joined them together, the right side and the left side. Only then did He create the world by them.

He took א (alef), and then ב (bet) in order, and He took תש״ר (tav, shin, resh) in reverse order. He then placed י (yod) with them from His Name, and He created the world by them, that the building should endure, and they are: אביתש״ר (alef, bet, yod, tav, shin, resh). The letters of אֲבִי (avi), my Father, are: אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדוֹ נֶפֶשׁ כָּל חָי (Asher be-yado nefesh kal ai), in whose hand is the breath of each living thing (Job 12:10); ת (tav) is תּוֹרַת יְהוָה תְּמִימָה (torat Adonai temimah)the teaching of YHWH is perfect (Psalms 19:8); ש (shin) is שַׁבָּת (shabbat), Sabbath; ר (resh) is רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה יִרְאַת יְהוָה (reshit ḥakhmah yirat Adonai), the beginning of wisdom—fear of YHWH (Psalms 111:10). And from all of these only with the letter ב (bet) did the blessed Holy One wish to begin. It is the building of the אָב (av), Father, the building of the world, and from there He began, because in the future by it He will build Jerusalem, as is said, בּוֹנֵה יְרוּשָׁלִַם יְהוָה (boneh yerushalayim Adonai)Builder of Jerusalem, YHWH (Psalms 147:2); אִם יְהוָה לֹא יִבְנֶה בַיִת (im Adonai lo yivneh vayit), if YHWH does not build a house [in vain do its builders labor on it] (Psalms 127:1). Also, the building of Torah and the World that is Coming are with the letter bet, and on her the world endures. In the time of its building, it is as the time the world was being created and built. And this is, Bereshit, in the beginning (Genesis 1:1). But when the First Temple was destroyed it was as if the world was welter and waste [cf. BT Sanhedrin 103a in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai]. And this is, And the earth then was תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu va-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:1). Immediately after it is built it is written, And YHWH said, ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:3). Because all the letters shine there. Even though the אוֹר (or), light, is the letter א (alef) His light shines into bet with the ה״ (five) lights which is the upper ה (he) of יהוה (YHWH)” (Tiqqunie ha-Zohar 16a).